Watch: “Skinput” technology will turn us into human joysticks

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When Microsoft brought the Kinect technology to market last November, the idea of a corporeal controller gave XBox 360 users a fun glimpse into the future of video-game play, with the inevitable system hacks further extending the range of creative invention. Now, Microsoft researchers are working on some cool projects to refine the idea of the "human joystick."

One new project they're working on is called "Skinput," which would basically turn your actual arm into a remote control. It's based on the idea that mechanical vibrations traveling through the body are acoustically distinct, differing according to where they're located. The Skinput researchers are developing vibration-detecting software that would allow you to control a particular device, a phone or an MP3 player for example, by way of a special armband. A hypothetical scenario where Skinput could be useful would be if you were out jogging and your MP3 player was set to "shuffle." If a song came on that you wanted to change, you could just tap your arm without breaking stride. Magic!

The human-robot aspect of technology gets freakier and freakier, and this latest lab tinkering won't yield any market-ready products for at least five years, but I can foresee the day where we think nothing of using our arms and hands as functional touchscreens, with a belly-button speed-dial option for your favorite pizzeria.